We asked three local chefs to share their easy, go-to recipes to help you gain confidence in the kitchen. Throw on an apron and pretend you’re starring in your own cooking show, because kids, we do want you to try this at home.
Chicken Tinga by Artisan’s Hillary Kraak
Chef Hillary Kraak is the owner of Artisan in Grand Haven. At 13 years old, she found her passion for food working at a pizza joint but went off to college for Mechanical Design, working in the automotive industry for a few years before the love of cooking lured her back to earn two culinary degrees. Her Chicken Tinga recipe is super versatile and healthy. “I’m trying to be healthy and lose weight and it’s hard with my training and background to not just use butter and bacon all the time,” Kraak said. “You can use it in tacos, quesadillas, on salads or make sandwiches out of them. You can do anything with that chicken!”
2 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh
1 large onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
One 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, not drained
3 chipotle peppers in adobo, coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all items in a crock-pot set to low and cook for 2-3 hours. When chicken is soft enough, pull apart using two forks. Chicken can be served in tacos with diced onion, cilantro, avocado and hot sauce. It can also be used on salads, soups and nachos or eaten with just refried beans and Mexican rice.
Detroit Style Pizza by Wheelhouse’s Andrew Alcid
Wheelhouse’s Executive Chef Andrew Alcid believes pizza shouldn’t be intimidating. He shares his love for Detroit-style pizza in this easy-to-follow recipe, with a deeply caramelized, rectangular crust. “Making pizza at home with my kids, we use store-bought marinara and it’s always on-hand in our house,” said Alcid, who sets the tone in the kitchen by listening to jazz and hip-hop music, podcasts from Joe Rogan and Howard Stern, and NPR, “for the soothing voices.” His favorite dish on Wheelhouse’s menu right now is the French Onion Dip sandwich, and if we’re talking about his last meal on this earth, he’s all about “Spam — thinly sliced and fried crispy — served with fried rice and three sunny-side eggs. It’s a Filipino thing.”
For the dough
4 cups flour
3/4 oz. instant yeast
1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
16 oz. water
For the rest
1-2 lbs. mozzarella or brick cheese
2 oz. pecorino or parmesan cheese, finely grated
8 oz. store-bought marinara
1 lb. pepperoni
4 oz. extra virgin olive oil
For the dough, combine flour, yeast and salt together and mix. Slowly add water until a dough forms — dough should be wet. Knead for about 10 minutes and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes.
On a 12-inch by 9-inch sheet tray or cake pan, place extra virgin olive oil on the bottom and spread dough on top and evenly to the sides. If the dough does not want to stretch all the way to the sides, let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes before trying again. Let the dough sit in the pan for at least two hours (overnight is better).
To build the pizza, start by spreading the cheese all the way to the sides of the pan to get the burnt crust. Add toppings — anything you want, but we’re using pepperoni here. Spoon marinara sauce on the top as little or heavy as preferred and top with grated pecorino or parmesan.
Bake pizza in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, making sure a burnt ring of cheese is on the outside.
Cut pizza into eight to 12 square pieces and serve.
Mac & Cheese by Brewery Vivant’s Chris Vander Meer
Brewery Vivant’s Executive Chef Chris Vander Meer graduated from Grand Rapids Community College’s culinary school and he wants you to feel at home in the kitchen. “Use recipes as guidelines and take risks,” said Vander Meer, who loves the flavors of France and Spain. He has recently added artist Tunde Olaniran to his cooking playlist and thinks everything tastes better with salt — “even my doctor agreed with me on that one!” His simple mac and cheese recipe can be made in a big batch for the week and one can easily get creative with it, building off the sauce base. “The Mornay recipe is the cheese sauce that you can toss any cooked pasta in, whether you make the pasta from scratch or buy it dried,” Vander Meer said.
2 oz. unsalted butter (measure by weight)
2 oz. flour (measure by weight)
2 cups cold whole milk
4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (don’t buy pre-shredded)
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. With a whisk, stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook the roux on low heat, while stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes to make sure the flour flavor is cooked out. Add cold milk.
Increase heat to medium-high and stir rapidly to avoid scorching the roux. Stir until the milk thickens. It will need to reach a boil. Once fully thickened, remove the pot from the heat and sprinkle in the shredded cheddar while whisking until the sauce is smooth and velvety.
Whisk in salt and pepper to taste.
There are tons of variations you can put on this classic, rich and creamy version to make it more grown-up. I like to first sauté some julienned onion, andouille or chorizo sausage and lately some hearty winter greens. Then add the mornay, followed by the pasta. Toss it all together and top with some grated parmesan in the bowl. So damn good!
To save leftovers, store mornay in an airtight container for up to seven days. To reheat, throw a couple hearty spoonfuls in a nonstick pan over low heat until it’s softened. Then add your cooked pasta to it and fold together until hot.